• Maddison is desperate to perform in the Champions League and he will be looking at United to qualify for the competition whereas Leicester are already in the qualifying top four of the Premier League and 14 points ahead of United.
• Chelsea are going all out to sign Wilfried Zaha during the January transfer window. Having been banned from entering into any transfer business last year, the Blues now have the right to buy any player they want and Zaha is their main objective.
The possible transfer of Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen is causing in-fighting at Inter Milan. Eriksen’s contract expires at the end of the season and he could move for free. Because he has refused to sign a new deal and wants to play elsewhere, Spurs are trying to cash in and collect what they can and have put a £20million price tag on the 27-year-old Danish star. Inter manager Antonio Conte wants Eriksen but club chief executive Giuseppe Marotta prefers Barcelona’s Arturo Vidal. Eriksen is obviously a better strategic buy for Inter because of his age and price compared with 32-year-old Vidal.
United planning to sign Maddison
Manchester United want to sign up Leicester’s James Maddison and are prepared to make a £45 million bid plus Jesse Lingard. Leicester have a history of building excellent teams and then seeing their stars lured to bigger clubs — Harry Maguire and Riyad Mahrez among them. Lingard, 27, has failed to improve and manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer is known to be concerned about his usefulness and reliability. United value him at £40million which makes their valuation of Maddison £85million — a figure even Leicester will have to think about seriously. United are prepared to offer Maddison treble his current £55k-a-week wage packet. Leicester, on the other hand, would have to tear up their salary structure to match that. Leicester’s top earners are Jamie Vardy on £140k a week and goalkeeper Casper Schmeichel earns £130k. Maddison is desperate to perform in the Champions League and he will be looking at United to qualify for the competition whereas Leicester are already in the qualifying top four of the Premier League and 14 points ahead of United. Leicester are determined to hang on to their star and I understand that the club management have contacted Maddison’s agents and advisors to begin negotiating a new deal. In the meantime, United have told me that defence lynch-pin Harry Maguire faces a long injury lay off after tearing a hip muscle this week.
Mustafi, Aubameyang could leave Gunners
Despite Callum Chambers injury, defender Shkrodran Mustafi might well still leave Arsenal this month. Mustafi has just changed agents and both are keen on testing the Gunners’ management to see how they view his future at the club. Mustafi has not played that much this season under Unai Emery or Mikel Arteta. It is Arteta’s decision as to whether Mustafi is kept or let go and the former Valencia defender, who joined for £35million in 2016, wants to know how he fits into Arteta’s plans. The case with Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is somewhat different and confusing. Despite having halted negotiations to renew his contract which has 18 months go run, Aubameyang told a Monaco radio station: “For now I am here 100 per cent. I love Arsenal and I am committed to bringing it back to the top, where it belongs.” He repeated his loyalty in the programme notes at the FA Cup victory over Leeds this week.
Hammers looking at Koulibaly
With new manager David Moyes firmly in the hot seat at West Ham, the Hammers have emerged as possible bidders for Napoli’s £70million-rated central defender Kalidou Koulibaly. Koulibaly is also a long-term target for Tottenham and Chelsea. Moyes also wants to sign 27 year-old Israel striker Munas Dabbur from Spanish club Sevilla. I was shocked to learn that Moye’s new 18-month contract with the Hammers includes a clause, which allows the club to sack him at the end of this season if he has not performed well enough.
Chelsea want Bayern’s Alaba for left back
Moving around Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, I have a clearer idea of how manager Frank Lampard is getting his team together. He has dropped Marcos Alonso from the regular starting squad and he is likely to be sold. Switching Cesar Azpilicueta from right back to left back has been successful and Reece James has become Lampard’s favourite to start on the right. However, Lampard knows that Azpilicueta is not a natural left back and therefore he is trying to discover if Bayern Munich’s left back David Alaba could become available. Alaba is rated by many as the finest left back in the world and he would attract a signing on fee of £80million. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has agreed in principle to release the money if the 27 year-old Bundesliga star is made available. He has 18 months to run on his current contract but the Blues are determined to sign him.
Begovic available but not to everyone
Asmir Begovic is being virtually unused at Bournemouth and is attracting several Premier League clubs. However, manager Eddie Howe recognises that the south coast club is now in a relegation battle. With Bournemouth sitting in the bottom three, he has refused to allow Begovic to join any of the clubs struggling in the relegation part of the table. Aston Villa and West Ham, in particular, have shown interest.
Adebayor could return to Premier League
Aston Villa have an urgent striker problem to solve now that frontman Wesley is ruled out for the rest of the season through a cruciate ligament injury. Emmanuel Adebayor is now 35-year-old and a free agent to sign for any club who want him. Villa are meeting with him to discuss possibilities and could schedule a return for the former Manchester City, Spurs and Arsenal forward.
Pogba being pulled towards Inter Milan
Manchester United have valued Paul Pogba at £150million and though I doubt a January transfer will happen, he could move in the summer and Italy looks a possible destination. United have discussed with Inter Milan their interest in Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez and manager Antonio Conte seems to be willing to sanction the player plus cash exchange as he is a known admirer of Pogba. Juventus and Real Madrid have also shown interest and therefore Inter have tried to move things along more quickly so they can get the French international World Cup winner to the San Siro.
Chelsea step up their bid to sign Zaha
Chelsea are going all out to sign Wilfried Zaha during the January transfer window. Having been banned from entering into any transfer business last year, the Blues now have the right to buy any player they want and Zaha is their main objective. To enhance their chances, Chelsea have appointed super-agent Pini Zahavi to organise Wilfried’s exit from Crystal Palace. He is close to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who believes that the Ivory Coast international could fill the boots of Eden Hazard, now with Real Madrid. Zaha is desperate to move clubs and severed his relationship with long-time agent Will Salthouse in September as he was frustrated at not securing a move following a £52million bid from both Everton and Arsenal. Crystal Palace are holding out for an £80million fee which has complicated matters. They have already rejected a bid by Bayern Munich to take Zaha on loan until the end of the season. Chelsea have also stepped up their interest in West Ham defender Issa Diop. The 22-year-old has been watched by Chelsea scouts, who have given a favourable report to manager Frank Lampard. Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake is Lampard’s next choice. Jose Mourinho is also watching the Diop situation because Jan Vertonghen is stalling over signing a new contract.
Newcastle’s injury list lightens
News from Newcastle this week is that they have up to five players back from injury this weekend for the match against Wolves at Molineux, a tough place to visit. I have been immensely impressed by Frenchman Allan Saint-Maximin, who manager Steve Bruce has missed since he pulled a hamstring in the 2-1 win over Southampton on December 8. He should be fit and ready. Miguel Almiron and Yoshi Muto will probably not be available but Ciaran Clark, Paul Dummett, Jamaal Lascelles and Andy Carroll should be in contention. However, Newcastle will definitely be without Jonjo Shelvey, Jetro Willems and Javier Manquillo, who were all injured in the 2-1 defeat against Everton.
Striker problem for Wolves
Wolves have told me that they expect their main striker Diogo Jota to be out for up to a month. Portuguese star Jota is limping around on crutches after suffering a dead leg at Watford on New Year’s Day. Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo said Jota suffered heavily in a clash with Watford’s Christian Kabasele, who was sent off. I learned further that the Wolves medical team cannot make a full assessment until an internal bleed, caused by the injury to Jota’s thigh muscle, has been reduced.
City dangle a carrot to Guardiola
Manchester City are anxious to reserve the services of manager Pep Guardiola for as long as possible. Pep has given several hints that he might move on in the near future. To sweeten his position at the club, the owners have promised to back any incoming transfers he feels would strengthen the squad and begin the rebuilding process for what is an ageing team. City’s defence has been the main challenge this season and the club’s scouts have been watching Milan’s Slovakia defender Milan Skrinair who is also being tracked by both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Aymeric Laporte, much missed in defence through recent injury, is ready to give City a boost by returning to fitness by the end of January.
Ancelotti wants to reunite with Rodriguez
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed to his directors at Everton that he would like to bring Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez to the club on loan. Rodriguez played under Ancelotti when he managed Real. However, since then, he has been in and out of the team and the Spanish giants have confirmed that they would be approachable to shipping him out on loan. Of course, Real have a history of keeping players they say they want to get rid of — just ask Gareth Bale! Funds could become available by Everton selling Cenk Tosun and Crystal Palace are showing interest. Tosun has done well at Everton with 10 goals in 47 appearances. However, with Daniel Calvin-Lewin (or DL as he is known around the club) hitting good form, the Turkish international is not likely to get much game time.
Kane update on his hamstring injury
Jose Mourinho has confirmed that he is anxious to get injured Harry Kane back to fitness as soon as possible. Kane visits White Hart Lane every day, walking on crutches and receives treatment plus check-ups from the Spur’s medical team. Even though he is injured, the striker intends to watch every Tottenham match from the stands. The torn hamstring is likely to keep him out until at least early March. Manager Jose Mourinho has admitted that losing Kane means Tottenham play without a direct front line striker. Fans have criticised the club’s board of directors and particularly Chief Executive Daniel Levy for not signing a stand-in striker but as I explained in this column, which top-class striker is going to sit on the substitute’s bench for 50 games a season?
Milan’s Krzysztof Piatek is a name I keep hearing around White Hart Lane. Milan have re-signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the 24-year-old Polish international knows that will badly affect his playing time. Supporters and critics alike say that too much has fallen on the shoulders of Son Heung-Min, Christian Eriksen, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli. Tottenham can no longer rely on Kane to win them games and have previously been described as the ‘Harry Kane’ team by Pep Guardiola. Kane’s 136 goals in 201 games prove the point. Tomorrow, Spurs have to take on a strong Liverpool team who have their three-man attack Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah all fit to play.